Tony Abbott affirms Russia’s G20 status is safe

Earlier this year, following Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea, the rest of the G8 (Group of 8 Nations) disassembled itself and returned to being the G7, just to avoid working with Russia or going to the scheduled summit in Sochi.

The larger group, the G20, slated to meet in Australia this year, hadn’t taken any similar action to ostracize Russia. Australia’s Foreign Minister did quickly propose banning Russia after the G8’s decision, but the governments of Brazil, India, China, and South Africa joined Russia in complaining about the proposal and asserting it was not allowed. Since then, of course, things in Ukraine have gotten much worse and have affected Australian citizens, and so there are now many local objections in the Australian state of Queensland, where the summit is to be held next month.

Australia’s prime minister, who is not exactly known for being the most responsive to public opinion or complaints anyway, made clear yesterday that he would be allowing Vladimir Putin to attend.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has defended a decision not to ban Russian President Vladimir Putin from attending the G20 summit in Brisbane, saying “it’s not Australia’s right to say yes or no to individual members of the G20”.

Maybe it’s true that he can’t unilaterally kick Russia out of the group, but his characteristic bluntness was perhaps poorly deployed. Either way it doesn’t sound like he put in much effort or tried to find any workarounds (sanctions, travel bans, entry visas, etc.)…

Abbott also reminded everyone of all the reasons he probably ought to block Vladimir Putin from attending, but won’t.

“Obviously we had the MH17 atrocity earlier this year where 38 Australians were murdered by Russian-backed rebels using Russian-supplied equipment so there’s much to deplore in Russia’s foreign policy,” Mr Abbott said.

“But the G20 is an international gathering that operates by consensus.

“It’s not Australia’s right to say yes or no to individual members of the G20. Russia is a member of the G20 and as such, we’re obliged to accept the Russian leader in this country.”

And then, of course, he had to take it one step further, by trying to make excuses for the very actions he said should be “deplored.”

“I don’t believe for a moment that President Putin wanted that plane brought down.”

To paraphrase Arrow, “Tony Abbott, you have failed this summit.”

The Group of 20 (G20) Nations (Credit: Wikimedia)

The Group of 20 (G20) Nations (Credit: Wikimedia)

R.I.P. The G8

So for those wondering whether it was possible to kick Russia out of the G8, turns out all they have to do is just stop inviting Russia over to play and go back to calling themselves the G7 instead.

Russian troops have been solidifying their positions in Crimea in advance of Sunday’s referendum. The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan, in a joint statement as the Group of 7, called the vote illegal on Wednesday and vowed unspecified “further action” if Russia annexes the peninsula.

Russia was added to the group in 1998. The country was scheduled to hold the rotating presidency for 2014. Woops.

The other 7 members did, however, leave open the door to a rapprochement at a later date:

“We also remind the Russian Federation of our decision to suspend participation in any activities related to preparation of a G8 Sochi meeting until it changes course and the environment comes back to where the G8 is able to have a meaningful discussion”

But don’t count on it.